The run that the Chicago Blackhawks on is incredible to watch. Just when it looked like the ‘Hawks were going to fall in Detroit, they found a way to keep the streak going. Montreal has been impressive as well, with a big-time win over the Bruins on Sunday.
There are a ton of teams in the middle of the pack, especially out West, where the #4-#11 spots in the conference are separated by just two points.
1. Chicago Blackhawks 19-0-3 (41 points) [#1 last week]
I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again; Corey Crawford is the biggest reason for this historical streak. His 1.41 goals against and .945 save percentage are incredible. His backup, Ray Emery, has been impressive in his own right, with a 2.01 goals against and .926 save percentage. Good luck scoring on the ‘Hawks.
2. Montreal Canadiens 14-4-4 (32 points) [#3 last week]
Some people may question if they are for real or not, but I think their win on Sunday went a long way to proving that they belong. Down 3-2 in Boston in the third, they scored two unanswered goals to take the conference lead. The key for the Habs is production from up and down the lineup. They have twelve players with over ten points, including three defensemen: (Andrei Markov 13, Raphael Diaz 13 and P.K Subban 11).
3. Anaheim Ducks 15-3-2 (32 points [#2 last week]
If the Blackhawks weren’t on such a streak, the Ducks would be the team everyone’s talking about. Anaheim just continues to win. They haven’t lost in regulation at home since January 25th against Vancouver. They’ve been scoring thanks to some excellent depth as nine players have at least five goals.
4. Boston Bruins 14-3-2 (30 points) [#5 last week]
They’ve still played a lot fewer games than some other teams. Tyler Seguin is starting to show signs of being an elite player. He has 15 points (5g, 10a) on the season. This team is really going to only go as far as Tuukka Rask takes them and he’s playing well enough that no one will want to face them in the playoffs if he continues his strong play.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins 14-8-0 (28 points) [#4 last week]
They bounced back from two road losses during the week to beat Montreal in a wild 7-6 game. They’ve been up and down at points, but with the rest of the division stalling, the Penguins seem poised to run away with the Atlantic Division.
6. Ottawa Senators 12-7-4 (28 points) [#8 last week]
I have to give this team so much credit for what they’re doing. They’ve lost Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and even Craig Anderson for a period of time, yet they keep finding ways to win. Ben Bishop has filled in for Anderson admirably and the Sens continue to play well in a very tight division.
7. Vancouver Canucks 11-6-4 (26 points) [#7 last week]
Just when it seemed like this team could possibly pull away with the Northwest Division title, they’ve lost three of four. Roberto Luongo, who was so good to start the season, suddenly looks very average. He gave up all eight goals in the loss to Detroit, then gave up three to the Flames on Sunday.
8. Carolina Hurricanes 12-8-1 (25 points) [#13 last week]
Cam Ward has been hot and that is a recipe for success for the Canes. They’re scoring goals in chunks at times and it seems more and more likely that the Canes are going to win the Southeast Division crown. They have a three-game home-stand this week with a chance to pad their record going into the halfway point of the season.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs 13-9-0 (26 points) [#11 last week]
There is excitement and buzz around this team for the first time in a while. They get a big test this week with four games against teams that are currently in the top-eight in the Eastern Conference. Both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have shown some flashes of greatness, but have also struggled. Which one of them will grab hold of the starter job? The Leafs need to be able to ride one of them down the stretch.
10. Minnesota Wild 11-8-2 (24 points) [#21 last week]
It looks like the Wild might be on the verge of turning it on. They’re finally a few games above .500. Depth scoring will continue to be their Achilles heel moving forward. They get a crack at the Blackhawks this week, which will either be a signature win for the Wild or at least a good game to measure where they are against the best team in hockey right now.
11. San Jose Sharks 10-6-4 (24 points) [#14 last week]
The scoring is what had them off to the great start before they fizzled, but it is the play of Antti Niemi that has this team playing well again. If they are going to make a playoff run this year, it might be on the back of the Finnish netminder. He has a 1.83 goals against average and a .934 save percentage, both good enough for third in the league.
12. Philadelphia Flyers 11-11-1 (23 points) [#17 last week]
I know their record doesn’t quite indicate it yet, but this team is playing very well. Getting Scott Hartnell back gave them a physical edge and added another element to their offensive game. Jakub Voracek (9g, 16a) has been fantastic for the Flyers. I think it really comes down to if Ilya Bryzgalov can be steady in goal, because this team is finding it’s scoring touch now.
13. Detroit Red Wings 10-8-4 (24 points) [#9 last week]
If they get style points for almost beating the Blackhawks, they’d be pretty good in that category. Detroit played a great game against the Hawks but couldn’t find a way to get the win. A bad delay of game penalty was partly to blame for that. They’ve been better lately, with points in four of their last five games, but they’re still searching for consistency.
14. Dallas Stars 11-9-2 (24 points) [#20 last week]
Every time I watch this team they seem to win, yet when I don’t they lose. They seem like a club that has the potential to get on a run, but they haven’t been able to rattle off since the beginning of February. They’ve been getting a lot of good scoring balance, with seven players scoring eight or more goals.
15. St. Louis Blues 11-8-2 (24 points) [#6 last week]
The Blues were getting hot, then they had a 1-2 week. It just seems like every time they pick up some steam, they lose their momentum. They get a huge test this week with a four game road-trip that sees them play at the Kings, Coyotes, Sharks and Ducks. This is a week that might define their season.
16. Los Angeles Kings 10-7-2 (22 points) [#18 last week]
The Kings seem to be regaining some of their swagger after their slow start. Prior to losing to the Canucks, the Kings were on a five game win streak, during which they surrendered just six goals. Jonathan Quick has been better, but it’s Jonathan Bernier who has looked stellar at times. There are quite a few teams that would love to have the backup netminder as their starter.
17. New York Rangers 10-8-2 (22 points) [#19 last week]
Though they’ve started to pull it together lately, there still seems like there is something off with this team. They were dead offensively against Buffalo until the major penalty resulted in a couple of goals and even then, they blew the lead and had to go to a shootout. The thing with this team is at any moment you can see them ripping off a streak of five or six wins in a row, but will it happen?
18. Nashville Predators 9-8-5 (23 points) [#10 last week]
The Preds have dropped four of their last five and they have scored a grand total of three goals in those losses. I don’t care how good Pekka Rinne is, they need to find some scoring or they’re not going to contend. You can’t keep dropping 1-0 and 2-1 games, too many points left on the table. Gabriel Borque and Colin Wilson are tied for the team lead with five goals each. Raise your hand if you saw that coming!
19. Phoenix Coyotes 10-8-3 (23 points) [#15 last week]
The ‘Yotes continue their three game “series” with the Ducks this week after winning the first game 5-4 in a shootout. They must feel lucky to pull a three game set with the second hottest team in the league. It is a good measuring stick for them though and if they can grab another win before two home contests with St. Louis and Dallas this week, they might have a chance to be feeling good by the end of the week.
20. New Jersey Devils 10-6-5 (25 points) [#12 last week]
I know there were some comments about the Devils dropping last week and if we’re a bit harsh because we’re a Devils blog. Honestly, putting them at #20 is probably being nice. Since their back-to-back wins against the Penguins this team has been in a major slump. They looked better against the Sabres, but it wasn’t enough. They play five games this week and if they don’t pick it up soon they might be under .500 by the end of the week.
21. Winnipeg Jets 10-10-1 (21 points) [#25 last week]
I really wrestled with the idea of ranking the Jets higher, because they’ve looked pretty good. Aside from their 3-0 stinker at the hands of the Caps, they’ve looked like a team that might compete for a playoff spot this season. Evander Kane continues to get better. He’s such an exciting player to watch with his finesse, speed and his physical game.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning 9-11-1 (19 points) [#16 last week]
This team continues to be confusing. They have a better goal differential than the six teams that sit ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, yet they’re two games under .500. The get the Penguins and Devils on the road in a back-to-back Monday and Tuesday. That’ll be a good test for this team, who needs to get their act together if they have any hopes of winning the division.
23. Calgary Flames 8-8-4 (20 points) [#24 last week]
Props to the Flames for not folding. They’re still at .500 and they got a big win against the Canucks on Sunday. Jarome Iginla is starting to score and the Flames are a good week away from actually being in the playoff mix. Will it last? Not so sure, but they’ve been fighting hard. A game with the Ducks and two with the Kings coming up will show where they really are.
24. Colorado Avalanche 8-8-4 (2o points)
The Avs get a boost with the return of Ryan O’Reilly after they matched the Flames offer sheet. Will he make enough of a difference to put the Avs into playoff contention? Not sure, but he’ll certainly help once he gets into form. They play two against Chicago next week; that’ll be either a curse or a chance for Colorado to make a big splash.
25. Washington Capitals 8-11-1 (17 points) [#28 last week]
If this was a “what have you done in the last two weeks” column, the Caps might be a lot higher. Braden Holtby is starting to play like he did in the playoffs last year and that’s a big boost for the Caps who are trying to dig out of the monstrous hole they dug themselves to start the year. Alex Ovechkin has been better and is a legitimate threat every time he’s on the ice, once again.
26. New York Islanders 9-11-2 (20 points) [#23 last week]
I saw an advertisement for Gorton’s fish the other day and I laughed, thinking of that old logo that got them in trouble. Okay, enough about fish, the Isles have been paced by the excellent play of John Tavares and Matt Moulson, but if they’re going to go anywhere this year, they’ll need the defense and goaltending to be much better.
27. Buffalo Sabres 9-12-2 (20 points) [#30 last week]
There are signs of life with this team after they looked dead over the past few weeks. Does the firing of Lindy Ruff sting? Of course it does, but sometimes the only thing you can do is fire the coach and start fresh. They picked up seven of eight possible points last week, which is a good sign. Another strong week or two and the Sabres will be right back into the thick of the playoff race.
28. Edmonton Oilers 8-9-4 (20 points) [#22 last week]
This huge nine game road trip has been cruel to the Oilers and there’s a long way to go. They get at Detroit, at Nashville and at Chicago in a span of four days this weekend. This is a crucial stretch If they can find a way to grab a few big road wins, maybe they’ll stay in the hunt, but they can easily be 3-4 games under .500 by the end of the week.
29. Florida Panthers 6-11-5 (17 points) [#27 last week]
Wins are becoming about as rare as an actual Florida Panther is for the Panthers. They’ve lost five of six and there isn’t much indication as to when the bleeding might stop. This team looks almost nothing like the squad that won the Southeast Division last year. Jonathan Huberdeau has been a bright spot, as the young forward has ten goals and is flashing some major potential.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets 6-12-4 (16 points) [#29 last week]
During the Chicago Blackhawks streak, two of their closest calls have come against Columbus. Though they’re still a long way away, I like the grit that they play with. Guys like Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky who they brought over in the Rick Nash trade will be valuable role players as this team continues to build.